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City Desk

Few details in NorthWestern Energy bid for Colstrip Unit


Big Sky Connection

Livingston, MT – NorthWestern Energy wants a green light from the Montana Public Service Commission to buy a larger stake in Unit 4 of the Colstrip Power Plant. It's evoked "pre-approval" for the sale, meaning details about the Colstrip asset it's seeking to buy are slight. Comments from Joan Kresich (kress-ich), board member, Northern Plains Resource Council.


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Documents from Puget Sound Energy show a section of Colstrip Unit 4 needs $20 million in repairs.(Rachel Cernansky/Spot Us)

Eric Tegethoff

October 23, 2020
LIVINGSTON, Mont. - Some Montanans are concerned about the lack of transparency in a proposal that's expected to have a major impact on the state's energy future.

The Public Service Commission is considering a deal for NorthWestern Energy and another owner to buy a Washington state utility's stake in Colstrip Unit 4 - for $1.

Joan Kresich, a board member of Northern Plains Resource Council, said the public doesn't know many more details beyond that, because NorthWestern Energy has evoked the "pre-approval" process.

"It would be like if a friend said, 'Oh, I've got a great deal. I'm buying an older house for $1,'" said Kresich. "And you said to your friend, 'Have you taken a contractor there? What's the condition of the roof, and how about the foundation?' And the friend said, 'No the real estate agent won't allow that. I just have to buy it.'"

Documents from potential seller Puget Sound Energy released last year show a section of the Unit 4 boiler needs $20 million in repairs. Kresich is concerned repair costs would be passed on to customers.

NorthWestern says Colstrip provides reliable power, especially as other coal plants close down. It also says it's buying too much energy on the open market, which is cheaper than Colstrip power.

Kresich said Montana would be moving backward compared to other states with this sale.

"Investor-owned utilities all over the country are taking much more decisive steps to move toward clean energy," said Kresich.

Kresich added that more people are focusing on where they get their energy and some of its costs, particularly for the environment.

"Now is a time when we're beginning to take control over energy," said Kresich. "And we need that if we're going to have the kind of future that we want for our children and grandchildren."

The Public Service Commission's final listening session on the proposal, scheduled for Tuesday, was canceled. Kresich says people can contact their PSC commissioner and NorthWestern Energy to express their opinions about the potential deal.




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